to puerto rico with love


Life is crazy and we are just along for the ride.  It feels like that.  My last post I wrote about how nerve racking it was to worry about my mom who lives in Puerto Rico with the threat of Hurricane Irma.  Thankfully all was good.  Fast forward two weeks, and I have been awake for 40 hours straight as Puerto Rico was pummeled by Hurricane Maria.  And I can tell you as someone named Maria, that it packed the attitude of a Maria.  I cannot go into all the details but my heart is heavy with destruction.  It looks like a third world country. 

As of the time of this post, I have not heard from my mom or my aunt (they are together) and it has been awful and gut wrenching.  Thankfully we heard that while there is destruction there are no fatalities.  Still, I want my mom with me-- safe and sound.  And so we wait.  All communications are down and it will be about another 48 hours before some basic form of communication is restored.  So we hope and we pray.  

You may be wondering what I am doing writing this post? I need the distraction.  The mental break.  I am emotionally and mentally exhausted.  So I turn to what I love.  Flowers.  My dahlias.  The beautiful Cafe au Lait always sooth me. 

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I sit here thinking about my tiny island in the Caribbean.  Can you spot it?

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And the lyrics of LaBorinquena, of our Puerto Rican antheem fill my spirit.  They always do because images of my beautiful island, the Island of Enchantment remind me that it is home.  And so today I dedicate these flowers and the lyrics to my island.  Today we woke up to devastation-- broke and hurt.  But we are strong and we will rise and recover. 

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"The land of Borinquen, where I was born is a flowery garden of magical beauty. A constantly clear sky serves as its canopy. And placid lullabies are sung by the waves at its feet. When at her beaches Columbus arrived; full of awe he exclaimed: "Oh! Oh! Oh! This is the lovely land that I seek. Borinquen is the daughter, the daughter of the sea and the sun. Of the sea and the sun, Of the sea and the sun, Of the sea and the sun, Of the sea and the sun."


in a vase monday + my six favorite garden fiction/non-fiction books


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Today's IMVM is very simple but it is a celebration.  I have been struggling to make the Cafe au Lait (CAL) dahlia healthy and get it blooming.  It has truly been a labor of love. The pests really are my by enemy with this one because they are attacking it with a passion.  But alas! I managed to get the first bloom that is not completely lopsided although it is chewed.  It is not perfect but I consider it a little victory!  So I display on its own on a simple milk glass bud vase, accompanied by Intrigue dahlias on another milk glass vase, which was a gift from my mother-in-law who herself received it as a wedding gift 52 years ago.  So i love using it when I get a chance. 

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It is not perfect but I consider it a little victory!  So I display on its own on a simple milk glass bud vase, accompanied by Intrigue dahlias on another milk glass vase, which was a gift from my mother-in-law who herself received it as a wedding gift 52 years ago.  So i love using it when I get a chance. 

And it is not flower related, but did you see the typewriter in the background?  We found this baby at an antique store and it works! Every time we went there, I kept looking at it like it was my love and finally hubby convinced me to get it.  And I am so glad I did.  It is perfect and already has my creative juices flowing.  Maybe a novel is in the works. :-)

I love books.  I am a bona fide bibliophile.  My To-Be-Read stack is actually a five shelf bookcase. I am out of control. lol.  And over the past few years I have found some really good books that use gardening and/or growing food as a central theme.  So today I am sharing with you a few of my favorite, which in my mind are a must for garden lovers, and book lovers in general. 

I don't want to give you all the details so I have included the publisher summaries of each book. But trust me-- well worth it!

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The Root of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo

Set in a house on an olive grove in northern California, The Roots of the Olive Tree is a beautiful, touching story that brings to life five generations of women—including an unforgettable 112-year-old matriarch determined to break all Guinness longevity records—the secrets and lies that divide them and the love that ultimately ties them together.


The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O'Neal

After tragedy shatters her small community in Seattle, the Reverend Elsa Montgomery has a crisis of faith. Returning to her hometown of Pueblo, Colorado, she seeks work in a local soup kitchen. Preparing nourishing meals for folks in need, she keeps her hands busy while her heart searches for understanding.
 
Meanwhile, her sister, Tamsin, as pretty and colorful as Elsa is unadorned and steadfast, finds her perfect life shattered when she learns that her financier husband is a criminal. Enduring shock and humiliation as her beautiful house and possessions are seized, the woman who had everything now has nothing but the clothes on her back.
 
But when the going gets tough, the tough get growing. A community garden in the poorest, roughest part of town becomes a lifeline. Creating a place of hope and sustenance opens Elsa and Tamsin to the renewing power of rich earth, sunshine, and the warm cleansing rain of tears. While Elsa finds her heart blooming in the care of a rugged landscaper, Tamsin discovers the joy of losing herself in the act of giving—and both women discover that with time and care, happy endings flourish.


The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio

On the eve of the Second World War, the last surviving specimen of a camellia plant known as the Middlebury Pink lies secreted away on an English country estate. Flora, an amateur American botanist, is contracted by an international ring of flower thieves to infiltrate the household and acquire the coveted bloom. Her search is at once brightened by new love and threatened by her discovery of a series of ghastly crimes.

More than half a century later, garden designer Addison takes up residence at the manor, now owned by the family of her husband, Rex. The couple’s shared passion for mysteries is fueled by the enchanting camellia orchard and an old gardener’s notebook. Yet its pages hint at dark acts ingeniously concealed. If the danger that Flora once faced remains very much alive, will Addison share her fate?

Fans of Downton Abbey should rush to pick up this novel.


The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown

High in the hills of Valencia, a forgotten house guards its secrets. Untouched since Franco's forces tore through Spain in 1936, the whitewashed walls have crumbled, and the garden, laden with orange blossom, grows wild. Emma Temple, London's leading perfumer, is the first to unlock its doors in seventy years. Her free-spirited mother has just passed away, leaving her the house mysteriously purchased just before her death. At the same time, Emma broke up with her long-time lover and business partner, although she carries his baby.

Guided by a series of letters and a key bequeathed to her in her mother's will, Emma makes it her mission to restore the beautiful but decaying house to its former glory. But for her aging grandmother, Freya, a British nurse who stayed in Valencia during Spain's devastating civil war, Emma's new home evokes memories of a terrible secret, a part of her family's past that until now has managed to stay hidden. With two beautifully interwoven narratives and a lush, atmospheric setting, Kate Lord Brown's The Perfume Garden is a dramatic, emotional debut that readers won't soon forget.


Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it....
The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants--from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys--except for Claire's rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire's quiet life is turned upside down--along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy--if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom--or with each other.

Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own....


I Shall Have Some Peace Here by Margaret Roach (non-fiction)

Margaret Roach worked at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia for 15 years, serving as Editorial Director for the last 6. She first made her name in gardening, writing a classic gardening book among other things. She now has a hugely popular gardening blog, "A Way to Garden." But despite the financial and professional rewards of her job, Margaret felt unfulfilled. So she moved to her weekend house upstate in an effort to lead a more authentic life by connecting with her garden and with nature. The memoir she wrote about this journey is funny, quirky, humble--and uplifting--an Eat, Pray, Love without the travel-and allows readers to live out the fantasy of quitting the rat race and getting away from it all.